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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Listening to the voices of the American Catholic sister
by Chenier, Karen Marie, Ph.D., Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2006, 467; 3534070
Abstract (Summary)

In this decade of the 21st century, a generation of Catholic sisters is dying. With a median age of 70 and no new generation of women novices, the end of the feminine voice in the Catholic apostolate in the United States and Europe seems unavoidable. "Listening to the Voices of the American Catholic Sister" explores the lives, attitudes, and experience of elderly Catholic sisters and documents the culture of a population that is in decline.

Ten sisters from the order of St. Joseph of the Carondelet, ranging in age from 73 to 91 years old, were interviewed in a qualitative, phenomenological investigation that included a hermeneutic component exploring their lived experiences. The sisters were asked a variety of questions regarding the psychological and spiritual aspects of the role of women in the Church, living in community, aging, and death. These self-reports comprise the data used to determine the study's results and conclusions.

This investigation uncovered a relationship between the age individual sisters entered the order and the ease they experienced in adjusting to community life. Their attitudes towards contemporary women and the role of women in the church were delineated, including discussion of the impact of Vatican II changes in the Church and more recent changes in society, including the women's movement.

Various archetypal themes emerged as the sisters discussed suffering and death. These motifs included the Passion of Christ, resurrection, deep relationships, friendship, respect, and love. The sisters support the belief that each individual's experiences are relevant and have value; they associate meaning with their life's work as well as their aging process.

The dialogue included in "Listening to the Voices of the American Catholic Sister" first examines the community of sisters from a symbolic point of view, utilizing Jungian and depth psychological language. The final portion of the discussion considers the wisdom the sisters regarding coping with loss, suffering, and death.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Miller, Jeffrey C.
Commitee: Crosby, Connie, Sloan, Lisa
School: Pacifica Graduate Institute
Department: Clinical Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 74/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious history, Social research, Womens studies
Keywords: Activism, Aging, Catholic, Nuns, Women religious
Publication Number: 3534070
ISBN: 978-1-267-79810-7
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